2022 was a dynamic year, with major external developments such as the horrific war in Ukraine, high inflation and COVID still. The pandemic led to relatively high absenteeism in our healthcare activities. Years of pressure on employees, combined with a shortage of workers, have taken their toll on this sector. The war has led to major increases in energy and material costs. Even more challenging were the increased labour costs, knowing that our costs are approximately 80% labour costs. We have adjusted the salaries of our employees everywhere, ranging from 11% in Belgium (mandatory by law) to 3% in Switzerland (based on CLA). At the same time, we talked a lot with clients in 2022 about the additional costs that we had to partially pass on to them.
Heading for more impact and collaboration
As Vebego, we have set course for eleven large companies in four core countries since 2020. To future-proof Vebego, we are transforming from a company with many entities to a new, powerful collective consisting of a select number of large companies that operate under one brand. At this scale, we gain additional clout and market leadership and can make a greater impact. The new direction is also in line with the movement that a service company like ours must and wants to meet many conditions nowadays. Whether it is privacy and security, investments in IT or (non-)financial reports – everything requires more effective collaboration.
Major steps in strategy execution
In 2022, amid all the turbulence in the outside world, major steps were again taken for the execution of our strategy. We have made preparations for the largest organisational change ever at Vebego. Investments in IT, reorganisations and our employees’ hard work allowed our Dutch cleaning companies to merge into one large new company: Vebego Cleaning Services. This company successfully started as of 1-1-2023. It was an intensive and sometimes emotional process. Employees sometimes took on other roles. And we have let go of iconic brand names like Hago, Stoffels Bleijenberg, Westerveld and Fortron.
Hectas: from acquisition to merger with Servico
2022 was also the year in which the largest acquisition in Vebego's history was realised. After the acquisition of hectas in early 2022, the merger of hectas and Servico (which was already fully owned by Vebego) was prepared to create one new large German facility services company. This new company started in January 2023, with a new name (Vebego Facility Services Deutschland) and a new legal structure, and with integration of key business processes and systems. The last steps of this merger will be finalised in May. From then on, the Dutch part of hectas will be part of Vebego Cleaning Services in the Netherlands. The Austrian branch of hectas was also renamed Vebego Facility Services Austria.
Financial and non-financial results
The operating result for 2022 is positive. With the acquisition of hectas, Vebego experienced a substantial increase in turnover in 2022. Apart from this, there was also healthy organic growth. For these results, first and foremost, our employees deserve a big compliment. At the same time, healthy returns remain a resource for us, not a goal. This also entails that we do not want to create negative value. In 2022, we inventoried CO2 emissions in all our companies. Virtually all companies have created roadmaps towards fully climate neutral business by 2030. Furthermore, as a company we are working towards CSRD, the EU directive that requires large, listed companies (from 2024) and large companies such as Vebego (from 2025) to report their impact on people and the environment.
Strengthening of the Executive Board
Efforts were also made that fiscal year to strengthen the Executive Board with two new members. We have a new Chief People & Culture Officer in the person of Poléanne Vluggen. Her job title is consistent with our community thinking by putting people first. She will help more explicitly identify and leverage the power of our culture. We also have had a new Chief Value Officer in Sirka Hintze since February 2023. She will focus and report on Vebego's financial and non-financial performance and results. This makes the male-female ratio on the Executive Board a lot more balanced.
As a company, Vebego wants to be meaningful to our employees, clients and society. That also requires measurements. Using the Net Promoter Score (NPS), we measure client satisfaction. This increased again for Vebego in 2022, with the challenge of offering clients even more proactive structural solutions and cost savings. For employees, certification as a Great Place to Work is important. In time, all Vebego companies will obtain this certificate. In 2022, Alpheios, Care (completed in early 2023) and Vebego Airport Services took the lead in this. Vebego AG in Switzerland once again successfully applied for the certificate in Switzerland and in 2022 even reached third place as ‘Best Workplace’ for large companies in Europe.
In order to measure the achievements and performance in sustainability, we use Ecovadis. Through this global platform, our companies demonstrate how they score on a wide range of sustainability performances, ranging from social security to contributing to a better environment. In 2022, Vebego Cleaning Services and Vebego Facility Solutions in the Netherlands, Alpheios in the Netherlands and Belgium, Vebego Facility Services in Germany, and Vebego AG in Switzerland scored gold and silver ratings on this platform. Our Vebego Participation initiative was the first cleaning company to obtain a B-corp certification.
We are counting on healthy growth again in 2023. The focus is increasingly shifting from reorganisation to ‘rebranding’. Ultimately, we are working across all our businesses to create one name that includes everything: Vebego. Here we will focus even more on what unites us, creating meaningful jobs. Which also fits in with us wanting to communicate our story in 2023 - The Story of Great Work - more intensively and let people experience it by making it even more explicit for everyone.
Finally, 2023 is also the year in which we celebrate our 80th anniversary and in which Dutch companies can enjoy another year of the title Family Business of the Year - an honorary title that has been awarded for 2022 as well as 2023.
Ton Goedmakers, CEO